Following the conference in Wales on Monday 21st August I have felt compelled to write a realistic version of how the night panned out, after reading some very shoddy journalism with complete misquotes and misinterpretation of my speech.
The article in question opened with “Michaela Booth, a single mother”. Now, correct me if I am wrong, but me being a single mother has absolutely nothing to do with the topic of debate. I was not attending the conference on super prisons for media to publicise my current relationship status! Maybe they should have added “and ready to mingle” at the end of it….
The article goes on to say that I spent two years on bail, in actual fact I spent two years and ten months on bail. Another misquote is “We need to not build any prisons until prisons work”. This one is minor but I feel I should amend this and state my words, as I said them. The correct quote would and should have been… “I am not here to oppose a super prison being built in Wales, I am here to oppose any new prison being built, until prisons work”.
The next statement from the article reads “ Prison doesn’t work for most prisoners, who are likely to be drug addicts and people suffering from mental health issues”. Now, this is partly true however not what I said. What I was really trying to get across in my speech was that prison, as prison is today, is dehumanising, exploiting and making money from the most vulnerable people in society. Many of whom have addiction and mental health problems, and building a new super prison that can not and will not provide adequate care for these individuals is completely wrong and will allow more and more people to fall victim of being caught in a system that is set up to fail the most vulnerable people that live with in our communities. As for “prison doesn’t work for most prisoners” I would argue that prison doesn’t work for any prisoner, in the current state of the prison system today. Prison doesn’t work for the prisoner, it doesn’t work for the staff, it doesn’t work for the families of prisoners and it doesn’t work for the greater good of society, aside from the fact of offering public protection for a time of incarceration for high risk offenders.
The article goes on to quote me as saying “A lot of things I had to go through to prove I was ready to leave prison were unnecessary. They put me through tests which asked if I was likely to act indecently around children” Well, yes the writer of this article got the gist of what I said, but not quite…. What I actually explained and in great details was not the ‘test’ but rather the ‘treatment programme’ I was forced to participate in by probation before they would agree to my homeleaves. Despite the fact that I had already requested to take part in this and was told that I didn’t need to do it as I didn’t meant the criteria for the ‘treatment’. This treatment for asked me various questions but two I remember distinctively…..1) have you ever considered having sex with a child 2)have you ever considered or engaged in a sexual act with an animal. This treatment programme has scarred me for life, lets have it right, if you are going to write about my contribution, write it how it is. The prison system and probation services deemed it appropriate for a young women, serving her first custodial sentence, for a fight in a club on a Friday night to attend a treatment programme that supposedly focused on Thinking Skills, before they would consider me for temporary release, to enable me to spend time with my child. Now, I wouldn’t say these were unnecessary tests. I would say, this was a waste of money, a waste of time, an exercise to tick an irrelevant box and damn right ridiculous to have even seated me on a chair in that room where the course took place, in the first place.
Another misquote….”Had it not been for prison, I would have been left homeless and unemployed after it”. Actually, Had I have left my housing and employment needs to the prison service, of course I would have been released homeless and unemployed. I found my job and I found my accommodation with absolutely no guidance or support from prison staff. Had it have been down to the prison service…. I would have been released from prison homeless and unemployed. The point that I felt I made well but reading this article I am having second thoughts….. LOL…..
Having been employed and in suitable accommodation on the day the judge sent me to prison, the prison service then have a duty of care and a duty, as they say, of rehabilitation. Now, for anyone who doesn’t know, rehabilitation means, the prison system release me back into the community in a better state or at least no worse, than the state I arrived. I arrived from a working background and leaving behind a stable home. This means, to rehabilitate me I should leave with at least the same as what I had when I arrived. The prison system, in the simplest possible terms, failed in any attempt to offer me rehabilitation, it also fails every single other prison within its ‘care’.
Now, the final quote from me is hilarious…. “If prison had its way, I’d be in the system forever.”
NO WAY on earth would I ever have said that. Never in my life has that thought even crossed my mind. My offence, was a mistake and a complete one off. What I said was, prison does not and can not support its many inmates who have addiction needs, mental health needs or housing needs, these are the people who are vulnerable, with far more needs than prison can accommodate for who are completely stuck in the system, what I said was “if you were released homeless, with £46, a drug addiction and no home, how long would it take you to commit a crime to survive…?” Because these are the people who are stuck in the system forever.
I understand the media and how they like to portray prison, that is why I do not entertain it. What I can not tolerate is an airbrushed account of the trauma, suffering and the longevity of systematic failing that are affecting prisoners today.
I went to Wales to oppose the building of any new prison. I described how if a car had been manufactured and then the maker of said car found failings within it that could cause potential harm, these cars would be recalled and would be advised not to be driven. We have a prison system, that doesn’t work, that causes more harm than good and with the crisis as it is today, the idea of any new build should be postponed until we see a safe, rehabilitative, supportive and effective prison system.
Oh, before I go….. Michaela Booth….. Single Mother! (bar maid, prison leaver mentor, blogger, criminology student) #girlofmanytalents